Rich hot chocolate is the most compelling reason to endure winter’s sting and chill.

By Betty Gold
December 07, 2020
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What’s better than a steaming mug of thick, creamy hot chocolate on a chilly day? Not much—except maybe a mug scented with cardamom, cinnamon, and other chai spices, a grown-up version spiked with amaretto and sea salt, a frozen hot chocolate milkshake, or a red velvet rendition. Can’t decide? You don't have to—throw together a hot chocolate bar and serve them all.

First things first: Know that there is a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. The former (also known as drinking chocolate) is made from solid semi or bittersweet chocolate, sometimes with an addition of cocoa powder, milk, and heavy cream, and perhaps a little sugar or vanilla extract. The latter is made from cocoa powder, sugar, and hot milk or water.

Start with our master recipe for rich and chocolatey hot chocolate here, then add on a few of our favorite indulgent upgrades—all of which are as easy to make as they are deliciously decadent. Because life is too short to settle for a lukewarm mug of microwaved pre-made cocoa mix.

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Frozen Hot Chocolate Milkshakes

Allow your hot chocolate to cool to room temperature, then pour it evenly into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer to make hot chocolate ice cubes. Once solid, drop the cocoa cubes into a blender, adding an extra splash of milk (or ice cream) and chocolate. Whirl until creamy. Serve with a straw and add a chocolate sprinkle topping.

Broiled Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

Fill an oven-safe mug with hot chocolate and a generous amount of marshmallows. Place the mug under your oven’s broiler. Leave the oven door open so you can make sure to avoid burning the marshmallows and watch as they toast and start to melt (this will happen quickly). Once they’re a nice golden brown, remove the mug from the oven with oven mitts.

Mocha Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Add 2 ounces espresso plus an extra sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon to each mug of hot chocolate before serving.

Pumpkin White Chocolate

Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips to the hot chocolate mixture and stir until all ingredients have dissolved and the mixture is thick and evenly combined.

Hot Chocolate Eggnog

Stir your hot chocolate recipe with equal parts warmed eggnog for the ultimate hot holiday dessert drink.

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate

Replace the semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips in the master recipe with white chocolate chips, then add 2 ounces cream cheese, a splash of heavy cream, and 4 drops of red food coloring.

Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate

Add two pods of star anise, 10 cracked cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks, ¼ teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 6 ounces of strong black tea, and 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar to the master recipe. Simmer gently without letting the mixture come to a boil, then use a fine mesh sieve to strain the spice solids out before serving.

Mint Chocolate Affogato

Drop a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream in a small bowl, then pour hot chocolate over the ice cream and finish with a whipped cream topping.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

Add ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, 2 broken cinnamon sticks, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to master recipe and simmer gently 10 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks. To kick it up a notch, add an ounce of reposado tequila to each mug.

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

Stir a tablespoon of peanut butter into each mug of hot chocolate until dissolved, then top with a scoop of marshmallow fluff or marshmallows.

Salted Almond Hot Chocolate

Add an ounce of Amaretto liqueur and a pinch of sea salt to each mug. Stir and serve. 

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Hot Chocolate Floats

Add a scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream into your mug of hot chocolate and finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Stir a spoonful of Nutella into each mug of hot chocolate until melted.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Coat the inner and outer rim of an empty mug with marshmallow fluff, then dip it into crushed candy canes before filling with hot chocolate and adding a candy cane garnish.

Stout Hot Chocolate

Warm a stout beer (such as Guinness) in a small saucepan, then add 2 ounces to each mug before topping with a splash of heavy cream.